After dinner, everyone parted and went their separate ways except for Li Chenyang who directed Xueyue into the library. They were seated before a polished wooden table with open books scattered across it.
Li Xueyue curiously skimmed on the open books. The topics ranged from the territories of Wuyi and Hanjian to the different political viewpoints of the countries. These were all books that she was intrigued by but never got around to reading. Speaking of books, she had yet to set her hands on 'The Art of War'.
"When Father came home, he handed me these," Li Chenyang said while placing three separate scrolls on the table.
Li Xueyue unrolled the parchment, her brows shot upwards in shock. "These are royal decrees!"
"Yes, these were properly obtained and approved by the Emperor, though I doubt he actually looked over them before stamping his royal seal on it." Li Chenyang scowled at the last part, his blood boiling in frustration.
Because the Emperor disliked his workload, he always shoved the majority of it to his Prime Minister, and as a result, their father was overworked. Li Chenyang loathed the fact that the Li Family always had to serve the Wangs. It was unfair and the Li Family rarely got recognition for their work.
"A royal decree for the transfer of business shares," Li Xueyue began reading one of the scrolls in front of her. "If we get Viscount Bai Sheng to sign this, then all of his shares, which is the majority of the business, will be given to us. In the Bai family, only he has shares in the trading port."
Moving onto another one, she remarked, "This one is for royalties for a certain time period…" she trailed off, shifting her attention to the final one. "And this is for…!"
Her head shot up in shock. "Completely handing over the business to us, no strings attached."
"Yes, Father was very thorough with the way everything was drafted. As long as we get Viscount Bai Sheng's fingerprints and signature on the decrees, everything will be finalized."
"What about the other investors in his business? Surely, they would have a say in this?
"That's the interesting thing about Viscount Bai Sheng's business," Li Chenyang noted, tilting his head. "He must've been very paranoid about who held the most power in the business because the shares given to other aristocrats aren't enough to ever overthrow him."
"I see," Li Xueyue muttered, holding one of the decrees up, noting that the wooden spin of the scroll was heavy and purposeful. "Everything seems easier said than done."
Li Chenyang leaned back into his chair. "The pirates will set sail tonight."
Li Xueyue nodded in response before examining the decrees further, all of which had the same sizes. "All we need is Viscount Bai Sheng's fingerprints in red and his signature right? And then things will be finalized?"
"We would also need the Bai family stamp. With all three of that combined, everything will be finalized and the business will be in our hands," Li Chenyang mused, watching her roll up the two most important ones and leaving the royalties decree on the table.
"These are the ones we should focus on," she explained, holding up the scrolls in her hands. "As for that," she said, nodding towards the opened scroll left on the table, "It's not as important."
"Xueyue," Li Chenyang suddenly said, watching her expression very carefully. She seemed satisfied by how smoothly her plans were going, but he knew there was more than what meets the eye. There was something bothering her and the small things that gave it away were the slight crease between her brows and the tiny wince in her smile.
"Hmm?" she hummed in response, turning to him.
Li Chenyang's suspicion was confirmed. She was upset about something. "Have you discussed Yu Zhen's departure with him?"
Li Xueyue's smile slipped, her eyes shifted from him to the table. "Not really."
"I thought you talked it out the last time he came to our manor?" Li Chenyang pointed out.
Li Xueyue shrugged. "Things didn't go as planned."
"Xueyue, I want you to be honest with me," he began. "As much as we offer you advice, at the end of the day, you make the final decisions."
Li Chenyang straightened in his chair, resting his elbows on the table. "What is keeping you in Wuyi?"
Li Xueyue didn't respond. She merely folded her fingers together, keeping her eyes trained to the table in front of her. She couldn't understand her silence. Why was it so hard to answer him?
Li Chenyang let out a small sigh through his nose. "Let me rephrase that. Is this revenge holding you back? Or is it that you can't bear to depart from us? Or is it something else?"
"It's everything you listed."
"I listed three options, but the last one was too vague. Why don't you make it clearer for me? What else is keeping you here?"
"I'm scared," Li Xueyue finally admitted, lifting her head to stare at him, her eyes trembling with unsaid thoughts.
Li Chenyang was instantly alarmed by her answer. "What do you mean?" He leaned forward and in a lowered voice, asked, "Is someone threatening you?"
Despite his best attempts of concealing it, she heard the alarm in his tone. He would kill anyone who tried to harm her.
"What if Yu Zhen is merely infatuated by me? What happens when he gets bored of me? We've barely known each other, yet he seems so deeply in love with me. I'm scared that it won't last."
Li Chenyang's cold gaze softened. He reached over and patted her on the head, his tense shoulders relaxed.
"You're worried this relationship will only be a fling instead of lasting forever?"
Li Xueyue shrank back into her chair. She gave him a tiny nod that was barely visible.
"In all honesty, I'm worried about the same thing," Li Chenyang admitted. "What if you travel all the way to Hechen, and then he suddenly decides he doesn't love you anymore?"
Li Chenyang worriedly drummed his fingers on the table. "You'll be stuck in a foreign country without friends or relatives, and far, far away from our helping hands. You'll be surrounded by his people, his servants, his peers, and no one will be on your side."
He shuddered at the horrible thoughts of Li Xueyue sitting in the same position as Li Minghua, surrounded by all the wealth in the world, but lacked a companion to share it with.
Like the flowers raised in the palace, they would bloom and wilt to nothingness. Their name would be a mere memory and soon, their existence would be forgotten, whilst their husband would surely go down in history books.
The thought that Li Xueyue's bright smiles would become twisted with melancholy was enough for Li Chenyang to remain rooted in his decision: If Yu Zhen wanted Li Xueyue, then he'd have to wait.
"Letting him depart to Hanjian will put your relationship through the test of time," Li Chenyang suddenly spoke up. "Perhaps he will come back for you, perhaps he will not."
He reached over and quietly patted her on the head, his lips curled into a slight smile. "He might come back as an Emperor demanding his Empress, or he might come back bearing news of a treaty, but never seek you out."
Li Xueyue's heart dipped at the thought of the latter. Would he ever come back at all? The minute he returned to Hanjian, he would yet again, become the most eligible bachelor of all. Mothers would scheme to curry his favor and daughters would kill to get his attention.
One backstabbing woman after the other, until finally, a beautiful Empress emerges—a woman dressed in crimson red and blinding gold climbing up the imperial stairs of Hanjian's Imperial Palace. The woman will glance upwards and smile at the sight of her husband, the Emperor of Hanjian, as he lends her a helping hand with that mischievous smirk of his. And that woman might never be Li Xueyue.
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